Dayton’s non-conference schedule full of haves and have-nots

UD schedules three teams that ranked below 300 in RPI

Dayton Flyers fans didn’t react with glee — at least judging by the reactions on social media — when they saw the men’s basketball team’s non-conference schedule for the first time Tuesday.

The average 2017-18 RPI of the eight opponents that will visit UD Arena is 223.8. The only marquee opponent playing the Flyers in Dayton is Mississippi State, which ranked 55th. Three opponents ranked below 300: Detroit (318), Presbyterian (319) and Coppin State (342).

“There’s no secret there are some teams we play that are not NCAA tournament caliber at-large teams,” Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “The guarantee games, the one-way games — whatever you want to call them— that are fairly standard in our business, we do have a couple of those.”

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Dayton tries to schedule teams it thinks might be on the rise, using statistical analysis and computer programs to project what a team might do in the coming season.

“We go back three or four years and try to determine if we had played this schedule with this record against this quality of opponent, what would our RPI be?” Sullivan said. “What would our strength of schedule end up? We have been fairly successful doing that. Our last four (NCAA tournament) bids have been at-large bids.”

Dayton does have a chance to build a non-conference resume that will help it make the NCAA tournament after a one-year absence because of the strength of the field in the Battle 4 Atlantis, which takes place Nov. 21-23 in the Bahamas.

Dayton’s first opponent, Butler, ranked 39th in the RPI. Its second opponent will be either Virginia, which ranked second, or Middle Tennessee State, which ranked 30th. Three of the other four teams in the tournament ranked in the top 100.

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That tournament will be critical, Sullivan said.

“We’re in the best tournament you can be in,” he said. “The Battle 4 Atlantis is a loaded field. Next year, we’re in Maui. When you look at those fields, very few, if any, of those teams would play us here at UD Arena.”

Here are five other things to know about the schedule:

1. UD reunion: Dayton coach Anthony Grant will reunite with former UD teammate Damon Goodwin, the longtime head coach at Capital University, in an exhibition game Nov. 2 at UD Arena.

The game against Capital likely will be the first time fans will see the Flyers in action. For the second straight year, the status of the Red and Blue Game is up in the air because of the renovations at UD Arena.

2. Series droughts: On Nov. 10 at UD Arena, Dayton plays Coppin State for the first time since 2008.

On Dec. 4, Dayton plays Detroit at UD Arena. The teams played regularly until their last meeting in 2002. Dayton leads the series 33-28.

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Dayton will play Western Michigan on Dec. 19 at UD Arena. It’s the first meeting since 1972.

3. New opponent: Georgia Southern, which plays at UD Arena on Dec. 29, is the only opponent on the schedule Dayton has never played. The Eagles finished 21-12 last season and ranked 143rd in the RPI.

4. Recent history: Dayton plays North Florida in the season opener Nov. 7. It’s the second meeting in four seasons.

Purdue Fort Wayne returns to UD Arena on Nov. 16 for the first time since 2013 when Jordan Sibert hit a last-second 3-pointer to win the opener for Dayton.

5. On the road: In addition to the three games in the Bahamas, Dayton plays twice away from UD Arena, visiting Auburn on Dec. 8 and playing Tulsa on Dec. 16 on a neutral court in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Holiday Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

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